The American Dream is imperiled. Upward mobility, the contract between one generation of Americans and the next, is under siege. Once unchallenged, this nation's primacy in college graduation rates has already been overtaken by committed competitors from abroad. The nation can take great pride in what America's community colleges have accomplished, but the message of this Commission is simple and direct: If community colleges are to contribute powerfully to meeting the needs of 21st-century students and the 21st-century economy, education leaders must reimagine what these institutions are -- and are capable of becoming.
In a rapidly changing America and a drastically reshaped world, the ground beneath the nation's feet has shifted so dramatically that community colleges need to reimagine their roles and the ways they do their work. The premise of this Commission can be summarized in three sentences: The American Dream is at risk. Because a highly educated population is fundamental to economic growth and a vibrant democracy, community colleges can help reclaim that dream. But stepping up to this challenge will require dramatic redesign of these institutions, their mission, and, most critically, their students' educational experiences.